Here in the Upstate families have the benefit of choosing from a number of educational schools for their young child. One option for parents is a Montessori school, which admits children as young as 2 1/2.
Jennifer Kelly of Upstate Montessori Academy says, “The Montessori approach is tailored to each individual child and the curriculum is structured in a way that the child can progress at his or her own pace.”
Robin Bylenga from Montessori School of Greenville loves that the children “become their own self advocates.” She emphasizes that Montessori curriculum is “always challenging for each individual child” because it is not aimed at a whole group.
Each child has key areas of learning which include the expected language and mathematics, but also address culture (geography, science, and history), sensorial and practical life lessons. Within the classroom, an observer will more often see each child working on an individual lesson based on their choice of focus for the day rather than a whole group activity. Young children work with materials they have utilized before, but each time they use it, they are given a different task to complete to create.
Bylenga calls this “layered learning as they mature.”
Many parents are surprised to find that their young learners come home more independent and able to focus for longer periods of time due to the three-hour learning cycles of the Montessori classroom. Classrooms are organized and at the level of the child, who often work on mats and at kid size tables. Teachers roam the room assisting as they are needed and introducing new lessons to each child as they need it to progress.
Heather Gentry-Sham of Wheatley Montessori likes that the Montessori approach uses natural materials such as glass, wood and fabric to teach children real life skills. She said children “learn the real-life challenges of being careful” so they don’t get cut if they drop a glass and clean up after themselves.
“Montessori children are the most helpful citizens you will ever meet because they nurture a strong sense of community,” Gentry-Sham adds.
Kelly says parents seeking a Montessori education should look for schools that have teachers that have attended two-year accredited Montessori programs. The most prominent groups are AMS (American Montessori Society) and AMI (Association Montessori Internationale), she said.
The Montessori approach is more expensive than many Upstate preschools. However, Bylenga says, “Montessori is looking for a solid yearlong commitment” and feels that in the long run children perform better. She says the Montessori approach addresses the whole child and not just the academics and “gives children tools to deal with real life situations.”
The Wheatley Montessori School is the one Montessori school on par with local preschools and offers scholarships and accepts ABC vouchers. The Montessori approach is unique in the education field. It encourages children to be independent and create a sense of order in their world at their level.
Amita Devaraj believes that her whole family has benefitted from her daughter attending a Montessori school.
“The most important thing I can say is that (my daughter) has learned to trust herself and not get frustrated,” she says.